Ultramarathons may be all the rage, but the marathon is not for the slothful

I finished my ninth full marathon!  My friends Launi and Jim have each completed over 100.  Neighbor Chuck has run more than 50.  So, in some circles, I am just a novice.

I've run the Honolulu Marathon twice, the Salt Lake City Marathon twice, and the Top of Utah (TOU) Marathon five times now.  This year was the 20th anniversary of the TOU Marathon, and its last running.  The TOU Marathon has been sold to another company, so it will be rebranded and probably rerouted.

I can't capture the whole marathon experience in a blog, but I do want to give the reader a taste of the last TOU Marathon.

Three weeks prior to the marathon, Caroline and I ran the TOU half marathon. Here we are, with friend Daren at the finish.  Daren lives 3 blocks from the finish line, so we walked over to his house, and Sree made us a fresh cup of coffee while we waited for other runners to complete the race!
Training:  Well, I'm not one for giving advice on training.  In fact, my running has gotten more erratic as I've expanded my training schedule to include more cycling, swimming, and weight-lifting.  Regardless, for this marathon my last week included a 20 mile run on Sunday, followed by 8 miles on Wednesday (split between a 5 mile slow run in the morning, and a 3 mile fast run in the afternoon), then resting until the marathon.  In between runs I spent 30-60 minutes per day on a spin bike to keep my legs loose.  Caroline and I did run the TOU half marathon 3 weeks earlier, and that race is almost entirely on the marathon route.  We both finished the half at a sub 8 minute pace, much faster than I could ever run a marathon.

That last 24 hours:  There was no special dinner.  I ate what I normally eat, which is already complex carbohydrate-heavy.  I did try to get to sleep by 9 PM, since I was waking up at 4 AM.  I like a relaxed morning before the race, with coffee and good breakfast, and plenty of time to get ready.

Race morning:  For the TOU, runners have to take a bus from the finish line to the start line.  The buses leave between 5:15 and 5:45, getting you to the start before 6:30.  There's a heated tent at the start line (the temperature was 33 degrees F when I arrived).  I bring a thin blanket to sit on, since the tent is set up on a gravel lot.  I close my eyes, and rest until about 6:40.  When people start moving around, I get up, put my blanket and my down jacket (yes, it was cold) into my gear bag, throw the bag into the gear bus (which carries all the excess clothing back to the finish line), and do a few active stretches.  The last bus has arrived, so I look around to see whether I know any runners.

I love seeing friendly faces!  Master marathoners Marianne, Jim, and Launi are ready to go!

Loved seeing neighbor Jana here for her first TOU marathon (but not her first marathon).  We started together, separated around mile 8, but ended up running the last mile together!

This is the view from behind the start line.  It's lonely up at Hardware Ranch.

At one time, there were only 2-3 marathons in the state, and these marathons, including the TOU, filled up.  For the past few years, because of the competition between the many marathons that are scheduled, as well as the popularity of the many half-marathons, registration numbers have plummeted for the TOU, even though it is a Boston-qualifying race.  I thought that 400+ had registered, but fewer than 300 ran the race.  Just a few years ago there were over 1000 runners!  To shore up their numbers, TOU developed a relay option for the marathon, which I ran 3 years ago (I ran the last leg, from mile 21 to the finish.  I actually apologized to EVERY runner I passed, since I was fresh and they had already run 21 miles!).

At 7:00 AM, the gun went off, and the race began.  I was pacing myself for a 4 hour finish, and I ended up being pretty close, at 4:05.  I took off my jacket at mile 11.  Launi ran with me from mile 23-ish to mile 24-ish, helping pull me along (psychologically).  Those last 3-4 miles are demanding.  Many runners were walking.  Your body has used all of its glycogen stores in those leg muscles, and you have to tell your legs to keep moving.  I caught up with Jana at the aid station for mile 25, and we cajoled each other to keep going.

Getting close to the finish!  I've been running for over 3 hours here.  I always run with a bottle of water, so I can take a sip whenever I feel like it instead of having to wait to arrive at an aid station for a quick drink.

Caroline waiting at the finish line.  These greetings are precious for the tired runner!

Robert being congratulated by race organizer (and TOU cofounder) Keith Grant-Davie. This is the first year I've finished first in my division.

For the second year in a row, Katy stopped by to congratulate me at the finish line!  That's the Logan LDS temple in the background.

For the past few years, I've kidded with friends Kate and Jim, who live across the street from the finish line, about having a beer waiting for me.  This year, it happened!  Kate's dad, Richard, was a great host for this drink (and the next).


I've also completed two baby ultramarathon races, both 50K (just a tad over 30 miles).  I don't know if I have another 50K in me.  My favorite races are 9-15 miles.  And I don't know how many marathons I have left in the legs.  I'm not the oldest runner by far, but you do have to train for the long runs.

My 50K on Antelope Island.


The next (and last) run for the 2018 year is the Antelope Island Mountain View Half Marathon in November.  It will have no more than 100 runners, and follows the shoreline of Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake..  Wish me luck!

Finishing the Mountain View half in 2017.  I was actually charged by a wild bison at mile 3!


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